Serena Williams of the US plays a return to Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands during the women’s singles first round match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, Monday, July 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)LONDON (AP) — Now that she’s “Mrs. Williams,” per the Wimbledon chair umpire, now that she’s a mother, now that she is back on tour, Serena Williams is ready to rediscover her full complement of shots and full ability to dominate.“Not only do I expect to win,” she said Monday after picking up a victory in her first match at the All England Club in two years, “I expect to win emphatically.”Williams found herself in a bit of a jam against 105th-ranked Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands, down by a break in the second set on a windy afternoon. And then, a five-game run and 25 minutes later, Williams had completed the 7-5, 6-3 result.“I have such high expectations of myself,” said Williams, whose 23 Grand Slam singles championships include seven at Wimbledon, so she was seeded 25th even though her ranking is 181st following an extended absence. “I don’t go out there expecting to ‘do well’ or ‘see what happens.’ That’s just not me.”Day 1 at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament featured some mild surprises, such as U.S. Open champion and French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens’ third first-round exit in the past five majors, and losses by No. 5 Elina Svitolina and No. 6 Grigor Dimitrov (to three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka).Also drawing attention was eight-time Wimbledon champ Roger Federer’s new clothing sponsorship, during his easy-as-can-be victory at Centre Court.Nothing feels as significant in tennis today, though, as what Williams does — because of what she’s accomplished in the past and because of what she’s trying to accomplish in the present, with a baby in tow. Not that she’s unique: Other mothers who won Monday included 57th-ranked Tatjana Maria of Germany, who beat Svitolina 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-1; former No. 1 and two-time Australian Open titlist Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and 120th-ranked qualifier Evgeniya Rodina of Russia.“The tougher balance, for me, is to be able to spend time away from my son and be OK with taking, sometimes, time for myself, which is a struggle sometimes, because I really want to spend every second with him,” said Azarenka, who faces No. 7 seed Karolina Pliskova next.Williams has won 15 matches in a row at Wimbledon, a streak that encompasses titles in 2015 and 2016, although Williams said that hadn’t occurred to her until a reporter mentioned it. The 36-year-old American sat out the tournament last year while pregnant; she gave birth to a daughter in September and married Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian in November (hence the change from “Miss Williams” over the arena microphone).This is only Williams’ second major tournament in nearly 1½ years. She returned at the French Open in May and won three matches there before withdrawing with an injured pectoral muscle. She went a few weeks without even attempting to serve, while healing, and insisted she wasn’t entirely sure how she’d fare with that stroke Monday.Rus rolled her eyes at that notion after the match, saying: “I mean, she doesn’t start a tournament if she’s not prepared.”Maybe so, but Williams double-faulted on the initial point, and dropped in some offerings in the low 80s mph, rather slow for her.Then she revved it up, getting to 115 mph in each set.“Serving good,” Rus observed. “Hard.”Still, Williams had her issues. She lost her footing and tumbled at one point. She got upset by a line judge’s mistaken call that led to the replay of a point she should have won but instead lost. She was down love-30 on her serve and trailing 3-1 in the second set after a run of 7 of 8 points for Rus.“Almost,” Rus lamented later, “like a double-break.”Almost, but not quite.Williams came back to hold there and wouldn’t drop another game the rest of the way, dealing better with the wind that whipped this way and that at No. 1 Court and marking terrific passing shots with those customary cries of “Come on!”Her sister, five-time Wimbledon champion and 2017 finalist Venus, had far more trouble across the grounds at No. 2 Court, slipping to the turf a couple of times and barely moving on with a 6-7 (3), 6-2, 6-1 win against Johanna Larsson of Sweden, who dropped to 0-8 at the All England Club.The Williams siblings aren’t playing doubles in this tournament, the way they did at Roland Garros, and that’s a good thing for Mom: It gives her more time with her child.“I felt guilty,” Williams said about her time in Paris. “I was like, ‘I haven’t seen Olympia.’ Like, ‘What am I doing?’ … Now that I’m not playing doubles in this event, I have the day off, I think that will help.”It might take time to figure out how to balance her job with her career, just like for many a parent.“I’m adjusting well. I spend so much time with her every single day. We, like, literally do everything. I really don’t like being away from her,” Williams said. “I also think it’s healthy, in a way, for me to do what I need to do, be that working mom, then go back home and be the mom.”
From ABC News: Check out our latest NBA predictions. neil (Neil Paine, senior sportswriter): Much to the surprise of the casual basketball-watching world, we’re three games into the NBA Finals and the Warriors are … DOWN 2-1. (Who could have seen a competitive series like this coming? 🤔) But in all seriousness, this was also a game the Raptors absolutely needed to win if they wanted a chance to win the series, right? With not only Kevin Durant but also Klay Thompson scratched from the lineup, they were never going to get a better shot at a depleted version of the Warriors than this.tchow (Tony Chow, video producer): Don’t forget Kevon Looney, Neil. But for sure, this was a must-win for Toronto.chris.herring (Chris Herring, senior sportswriter): Yeah, there was definitely a must-win feel to this game. To their credit, the Raptors were really solid from start to finish. Steph Curry ate them for lunch, with 47 points, but he also pretty much had to do that, since no one else on his team could create any offense. I was really impressed by Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and Danny Green.natesilver (Nate Silver, editor in chief): It was a VERY high-leverage game for a Game 3 because it really cuts both ways: Toronto needed the win, but also, with the loss, Golden State is in quite a bit of trouble now.Having to win three out of four against a team that’s pretty thoroughly outplayed you so far is not terribly easy, even if you wave a wand and everyone is magically healthy.tchow: Well, the FiveThirtyEight model still gives the Warriors 33 percent chance of winning the title. And 30-something-percent-chance things happen quite often, or so I’ve been told.neil: Ooooh, Tony.sara.ziegler (Sara Ziegler, assistant sports editor): If Toronto can’t beat a lineup that includes Quinn Cook, Jonas Jerebko and Andrew Bogut, that’s a problem.neil: Right, the Warriors would be more panicked if they had rolled out Klay and KD and still lost. At least now they can still tell themselves that the “injured guys returning” trump card exists.natesilver: Handicappers still have the Warriors as ever-so-slight favorites, though pretty close to 50/50. So our model is still a little out of line with the consensus.tchow: Handicappers are really not appreciating what Toronto has done this series.sara.ziegler: No one believes in the Raptors!neil: (Still.)sara.ziegler: (Except us, obviously.)natesilver: Yeah, it’s a bit nuts. Like, this could easily be a 3-0 series. Toronto clearly played better in the two wins, and Game 2 could have gone differently if they’d hit more shots.chris.herring: I do think there’s something to be said for how much the matchups differ with GSW’s main guys healthy.neil: For sure.natesilver: To me, the Warriors with KD and Klay back (but without Looney, although he has a shot to return) feel like about a 50/50 proposition to win three out of four games (one of which would probably have to be a Game 7 on the road).chris.herring: With a healthy Durant, Kawhi Leonard presumably has far less energy for offense — regardless of whether Durant is rusty. Wednesday was Golden State’s worst-case scenario, basically.natesilver: Yeah, Golden State’s problem has really been on defense so far.chris.herring: Yes, 100 percent.I used to think the worst-case was, “What if Durant throws off their rhythm?” But it’s clear that just having him there, rhythm or not, would help them a great deal. Even more so with Klay being back, too.neil: The Warriors put Draymond Green on Kawhi, and it didn’t really work. Leonard scored 15 on Green with 5-of-8 shooting. But they needed Andre Iguodala on Pascal Siakam for a good chunk of the game (which worked well in Game 2). Klay being out really messed with their ability to match up defensively.chris.herring: Their defense was horrendous at times on Wednesday. DeMarcus Cousins was really problematic defensively and just looked a mess.natesilver: But, also, Toronto is goooooooooood, we certainly don’t know that KD is healthy, and even if GSW is slightly better at full strength, Toronto has a game in hand.And in some ways, our model is being generous to the Warriors. Like, it’s treating Cousins as fully effective, which he obviously isn’t.neil: Yes, the Warriors really needed Cousins to provide extra scoring punch. But he struggled a lot — he only scored 4 points on 1-for-7 shooting. Steph scored 47 points, but the rest of the team only scored 62 total. Only three Warriors scored in double figures. Even Curry can’t do it alone.sara.ziegler: ^^^ that point share is just amazingneil: Curry also led the Warriors in assists AND rebounds!natesilver: In my series preview, I talked about how Klay and KD aren’t super compatible with one another. But being without BOTH is really tough. The Warriors constructed a team around not really needing a lot of usage or shot creation because you have so much of it with those three guys. But it means some of the lineups you put out there when two of them are hurt are pretty terrible.chris.herring: I saw a pretty wild stat: A handful of guys1LeBron James three times, Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook, along with Curry. have scored 43 percent or more of their team’s points in a finals game the past 10 years. Every single one of those showings was in a losing effort.natesilver: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the Warriors could really use like a … Michael Beasley type to score points off the bench.sara.ziegler: 😲chris.herring: I can’t believe you’re saying that, either! He would make the defensive issues worse! But I totally know what you mean, and there’s probably some merit to thatNick Young served that purpose once upon a time, though they used him as more of an off-ball sort of guy. The truth is, Klay’s absence hurts them there, too, because they always use him with the second unit.natesilver: I’m just saying that a guy who can rule the garbage-time minutes is worth something.chris.herring: Absolutely.natesilver: Especially if the Raptors were tending to sub out Kawhi at the same time the Warriors had some of their weaker lineups on the floor, which IIRC was mostly true on Wednesday.chris.herring: The truth is, there wasn’t enough shooting. And not enough shot creation, as Nate is saying. They Warriors made a grand total of two shots off the dribble that weren’t from Steph himself, according to ESPN Stats & Information Group. That’s just not enough.neil: Toronto was better (+8) with Kawhi off the court than on (+6), which speaks to those sub patterns, Nate. I’d think that can’t be true if you’re going to beat Toronto.natesilver: I almost wonder if that was a mistake on Nick Nurse’s part — having Leonard out there during those non-Curry lineups. The Warriors’ lineups without Steph were so bad — basically a lottery/G League team — that maybe you want to maximize those opportunities.sara.ziegler: No Golden State player had a positive plus-minus on Wednesday, but the bench actually had higher numbers than any of the starters — even Curry.chris.herring: I was pretty surprised by just how bad Cousins looked. Especially after a really, really good Game 2 from him.neil: Yeah, after that double-double, I think people were ready to declare, “He’s back!”tchow: I think everyone was expecting a repeat of his Game 2 performance or something better.chris.herring: But he also wasn’t being relied on to play like a star for most of Game 2. Without Klay, the role became bigger. And he just didn’t look himself.natesilver: I’ll make the obligatory video game analogy, but with Cousins, it’s a bit like if you took the same shell of a player and tuned all his attributes down by 10 points. He looks sorta like himself, but just a much worse version of himself.chris.herring: A MUCH worse version. Sliders all the way down.A couple of really costly plays, including one where he fell down, appeared to want a foul call, and as he sat on the ground, Kawhi hit a backbreaking three in transition.natesilver: And again, I wonder if our model is not being too optimistic about how well, say, KD will play upon his return.He’s not even really practicing yet. You’d have to imagine that if it were the regular season, they’d take another week to figure it out before even considering giving him playing time in a game.neil: I wonder how much of the “Warriors are hopeful KD might return for Game 4” talk is situational. They wouldn’t be saying that if they were up 2-1.sara.ziegler: I’ll believe he’s healthy when I see him on the court.natesilver: Mayyyyybe it’s a good sign for KD’s return that the Warriors didn’t feel the need to rush Klay out there on Wednesday?Because 2-1 is a pretty devastating disadvantage if you don’t think you’re getting Durant back. With him, not quite as scary.neil: Did they need Klay dressed and on the bench just to literally meet the minimum requirement for warm bodies necessary for a game?sara.ziegler: LOLnatesilver: I wonder if there’s a part of the Raptors that almost wants all those guys to get healthy. Because if the Raptors win, the narrative about the series will probably be, “Oh yeah, that was the year everyone got hurt.”neil: Well, I definitely wanted to talk about that, Nate. Will this series carry questions of whether they really beat THE Warriors?tchow: I definitely think so. They don’t want any asterisk next to their win if they do win the whole thing.neil: It’s like the Ship of Theseus. How many All-Stars can the Warriors lose before they’re not really THE Warriors anymore?natesilver: At some point on Wednesday — I think the Vegas closing line had the Warriors by 4 or something? — people were just believing in the laundry, as Jerry Seinfeld might say.neil: tchow: Let’s say the Warriors never come back fully 100 percent at all during these finals and the Raptors win their first ring. I think it’ll be really unfair to diminish what Toronto has done to get that banner to say it’s only because the Warriors aren’t healthy. You play the team in front of you.natesilver: It was a lot like some of the LeBron James series where the Cavs were depleted (i.e. pretty much all of the Cavs’ finals except 2016) where it’s just like — even if the guy’s the best player in the world, there’s only so much he can do by himself.tchow: There was a similar narrative when Kawhi got hurt when the Spurs played the Warriors, and I wasn’t a fan of it then either.natesilver: Michael Jordan isn’t winning the finals if he had Shaun Livingston and injured-ass DeMarcus Cousins in your starting lineupchris.herring: Steve Kerr is talking right now here at practice. Klay will play tomorrow, barring a setback. He said Durant won’t, though.natesilver: 😬chris.herring: Said Durant won’t be scrimmaging today like he initially hoped, and that they’ll play it out over the next couple of days.natesilver: Gotta go update the model.tchow: Do you believe him, Chris?chris.herring: I do believe him.It still sounds like it’s fair to ask whether Durant will be able to make it back at all.sara.ziegler: ding ding dingnatesilver: Speaking of LeBron, it feels a little bit like with the Lakers this year how LeBron’s timetable kept slipping back.chris.herring: I honestly thought Klay would play in Game 3, so I definitely feel like he will for Game 4. But the Durant news is concerning, for sure.neil: Sounds like Klay honestly thought he would play too.chris.herring: Klay was going to make an argument to be out there regardless.sara.ziegler: Klay wanted to play SO BAD.neil: He probably would have played better than Shaun Livingston anyway.chris.herring: Kerr took a really good question from The Athletic’s Joe Vardon on Wednesday: If there’s any concern that he could make things worse, will he play tonight? And Kerr essentially said, that’s the whole issue. If he was still at a place where he could potentially injure himself worse, they didn’t want to risk it. Which makes sense, but they are running out of time — concerning the Durant injury, too.natesilver: I mean … if they throw Durant out there down 3-1 in the series, he has a chance to be a hero, I guess!tchow: Oh, man, can you imagine if they come back from 3-1 down to win it?neil: Imagine the memes.sara.ziegler: Cavs fans would be MAD.chris.herring: I think maybe Knick fans would be mad if Durant led them back from 3-1.Kerr is trying to clarify that there wasn’t a setback with Durant, by the way. For whatever it’s worth.natesilver: I mean, it sounds like there was a setback if he was supposed to scrimmage and then didn’t?neil: They’re going to be “optimistic” that he’s on a timetable to return by Game 8. Maybe Game 9.natesilver: Not that I want to put too much weight on this, but KD didn’t look particularly limber in those images of him in the tunnel and what not.neil: You’ve been spending a lot of time updating our injury spreadsheet, Nate. Were you breaking down that footage like the Zapruder tape?sara.ziegler: 🤣tchow: I feel like every NBA fan has become a body language doctor, especially after watching this series.chris.herring: May be double talk, I guess. Kerr basically said that he hoped KD might be able to scrimmage. But that was merely a hope, not an expectation that he would for sure. I think it’s fair to parse it, though.natesilver: It’s hard to know what to do with some of this, Neil! Since we literally do have to quantify injuries in our spreadsheet, there’s a fair amount of guesswork involved. And to some extent, sure, I’ll pay attention to fairly subtle signs.chris.herring: It is interesting that the Warriors may get Looney back at some point. But that and Klay, without Durant, will feel like getting a $10 refund when you’re still owed $20.natesilver: I guess “KD saves the Warriors” pretty much is the nightmare scenario for the Knicks, though. Although at this point, maybe even if that happens, KD would just be like, “I saved your asses and now you can go eff off anyway because I’m going to New York.”chris.herring: This whole series has been so weird. I really would like to see both teams at full strength. I’m convinced it would be a great series that way. Maybe it still will be.neil: Have there been any other finals in recent memory that was so ruled by injury reports? Maybe that Cavs-Warriors series with Love and Kyrie both out?sara.ziegler: Ban injuries, Chris!neil: Speaking of NBA2K, gotta toggle the injuries off for your franchise next time, Adam Silver.natesilver: Let’s remember that the Raptors’ two wins have come by 9 points and 14 points, respectively. Those are pretty solid margins. I know you can’t be quite this linear because of gameflow and all that, but our model figures that a healthy Warriors team is maybe 6-ish points per game better than the version they’ve been putting out there, so maybe Games 1 and 3 are still narrow wins for the Raptors.neil: And yet, didn’t it feel at times down the stretch of Game 3 that maybe — mayyyyyyybe — the Warriors would make a push?tchow: Yes! Everytime they cut it to 8 or 9, I was like, “here we go.”neil: That was the least safe-feeling 10-point lead ever.natesilver: They were on the verge of being on the verge, but never on the verge.I think the 14-point scoreline pretty accurately reflected how competitive the game was.tchow: Credit to Toronto for making shot after shot to not allow the comeback to really have momentum.natesilver: They did sink a lot of shots, yeah. Except in that stretch in the second quarter. But they don’t squander very many possessions on EITHER end, and that counts for a LOT.tchow: I can replay four or five possessions in my head right now of a Toronto shot that I was positive was not going to go in and would allow the Warriors to cut it to a two-possession game, but either Lowry with a ridiculous three or Danny Green with a shot-clock-beating three or Fred VanVleet with a rainbow, they all seemed to go in at the right time.chris.herring: It’s weird. I actually didn’t ever feel like the Warriors were RIGHT there. Partly because you knew they weren’t capable of the same sorts of runs we’ve grown accustomed to without the same sort of firepower on the court.Steph can’t do all that by himself.But yeah: The Raptors never let it get any closer than 7 down the stretch. They hit a big shot every time they needed one.sara.ziegler: Is it all about who you’re rooting for? Cuz I was sure the Warriors were coming back.neil: (Sara is pro-FiveThirtyEight model pre-series projection, and therefore staunchly pro-Raptors.)sara.ziegler: (Obviously.)natesilver: The Warriors’ third-quarter comebacks are also not something magical, though. It’s about having so much weaponry that they’re almost impossible to beat when they’re locked in and maybe the other team is worn down a bit.But you take away that weaponry, and you can’t have the shock-and-awe type comeback.chris.herring: Exactly.sara.ziegler: Nate, IT IS MAGIC.Stop using your fancy analytics talk.natesilver: It FEELS like magic in part because KD, Curry and Klay all have such nice shooting form and such uncanny ability to drain shots from anywhere on the floor. So it LOOKS like they aren’t even working for it.But you take two of those guys off the floor, and even with Curry scoring 47, it’s pretty hard to overcome a 10-ish-point deficit against a good opponent, even at home.chris.herring: Especially when you’re defending the way they were. The Raptors scored on five possessions in a row between the eight- and five-minute mark in the fourth quarter. That was essentially all she wrote at that point.neil: It is worth pointing out that they did have two recent All-Stars in that game in Curry and Draymond. (Plus another one in Cousins, which perhaps shouldn’t count.) How many other teams would love “only” that many stars?natesilver: The thing about Draymond is that he’s maybe one of the 10 best guys in the league to be in your lineup if you already have Curry/KD/Klay. But if you were starting a team from scratch, he might be, like, 40th? Because he doesn’t provide enough scoring punch.neil: Right, they are the wrong kind of All-Stars.But it kind of speaks to how insanely stacked the Warriors are at full strength that it feels like they are now, idk, the Atlanta Hawks or something.tchow: Orlando Magic.natesilver: FYI, the Warriors’ odds just fell from 33 percent to 29 percent (exactly what Trump’s were on ELECTION DAY!!!!) when I updated the model with Klay being healthy for Game 4 but KD’s timetable being a little pushed back.chris.herring: Nate is setting himself up for attacks from all sorts of people who don’t understand probability in case the Warriors win.tchow: That’s what I’m saying!natesilver: Oh, those will happen anyway, Chris.tchow: Déjà vu!chris.herring: 😂
Looking for a World Cup favorite? All you really need to know is this: The World Cup gets underway Thursday in Sao Paulo, and it’s really hard to beat Brazil in Brazil.Today we’re launching an interactive that calculates every team’s chances of advancing past the group stage and eventually winning the tournament. The forecasts are based on the Soccer Power Index (SPI), an algorithm I developed in conjunction with ESPN in 2010. SPI has Brazil as the heavy favorite, with a 45 percent chance of winning the World Cup, well ahead of Argentina (13 percent), Germany (11 percent) and Spain (8 percent).1These numbers are as of June 9, 2014. The numbers from Betfair referenced below are as of the evening of June 8.Here’s where I’d insert the punchline about how you didn’t need a computer to tell you that Brazil is the favorite. But some of you apparently did.True, Brazil is the betting favorite to win the World Cup — but perhaps not by as wide a margin as it should be. The team’s price at the betting market Betfair as of early Sunday evening implied that it has about a 23 percent chance of winning the World Cup2The Betfair odds for the 32 teams add up to slightly greater than 100 percent. I’ve prorated each team’s odds so that they equal 100 percent exactly. — only a little better than Argentina (19 percent), Germany (13 percent) and Spain (13 percent).Argentina, Germany and Spain, like Brazil, are wonderful soccer teams. You could perhaps debate which of the four would be favored if the World Cup were played on a hastily constructed soccer pitch somewhere in the middle of the desert.But this World Cup is being played in Brazil. No country has beaten Brazil on its home turf in almost 12 years. Brazil’s last loss at home came in a friendly on Aug. 21, 2002. That game against Paraguay, incidentally, is one the Brazilians may not have been particularly interested in winning. Brazil had won the World Cup in Japan earlier that summer; the Paraguay match was the team’s homecoming. Although Brazil started most of its regulars, by midway through the game it substituted out almost all of its stars.To a find a loss at home in a match that mattered to Brazil — in a World Cup qualifier, or as part of some other tournament — you have to go back to 1975, when Brazil lost the first leg of the Copa América semifinal to Peru. None of the players on Brazil’s current World Cup roster was alive at the time.It may be that the impact of home-field advantage is gradually declining in international soccer. Travel conditions are somewhat better than they were a few decades ago — provided you’re not flying coach, which international soccer stars normally aren’t. Meanwhile, the rise of the international transfer market means that those stars may be playing far from home to begin with. Of the 23 men coach Luiz Felipe Scolari selected for the Brazilian team, all but five play for club teams in Europe. (It’s hard to know for sure, but one imagines that if Pelé were playing today, it might be for Real Madrid or Bayern Munich — not Santos.)Even so, home-field advantage is large in soccer as compared with other sports — especially in transcontinental competition, where travel distances are longer. In World Cups since 1990, a period that includes several hosted by countries that didn’t have winning soccer traditions, home teams have a record of 27 wins, six draws, and six defeats.3These totals count both Japan and South Korea as home teams in 2002. They account for games decided on penalty kicks as wins or losses; some soccer statisticians prefer to record such games as draws. SPI’s estimates of home-field advantage are based on more recent data still — games from late 2006 onward.But Brazil’s edge is not based solely on home-field advantage.The challenge of rating international soccer teamsSuppose we insist on a purist’s approach to rating the teams. First, we look only at relatively recent matches (those since the completion of the previous World Cup in South Africa). Second, we look only at important games, excluding all friendlies. Third, we pay no attention to the scoring margin — wins, losses and draws are all that matter. And fourth, we look only at games against top-flight competition — specifically against other teams that qualified for this year’s World Cup. Each team’s record in such games is as follows4These figures treat games won on penalty kicks as draws.:Our first problem comes with the small sample sizes. Brazil and Germany have played just six of these games in the almost four years since South Africa, for example. But it gets a lot worse. England has played only four. The Netherlands has played only two. Cameroon and Ghana haven’t played any at all. This isn’t a completely useless list. In fact, Brazil, Argentina, Spain and Germany emerge as a reasonably clear top four.The other big problem is that almost all of this play occurred within continents, such as for continental championships and in World Cup qualifying matches. (The Confederations Cup, held in Brazil last year and dominated by the home team, was the major exception.) The United States’ record of five wins, three losses and one draw looks relatively promising, for instance. But all those games were played against the three other North American teams who qualified: Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica. It’s pretty well established that the U.S. usually gets the better of Costa Rica and Honduras, and can hold its own against Mexico. That doesn’t say much about whether the U.S. can beat Germany, Ghana or Portugal.There simply isn’t much information about how particular national soccer teams play against one another when they have the most on the line, especially in games involving teams from different continents. That’s why they play the World Cup, of course. But that isn’t very helpful in trying to anticipate the tournament’s outcome.A quick introduction to SPII designed SPI to address some of these problems. SPI is a little complex as compared with something like our NCAA basketball projection model. Complexity isn’t necessarily a good thing when it comes to a forecasting model. Among other problems, more complex models may require more computational power (SPI takes a long time to run) and more time to prepare and clean data (SPI requires us to link players between club and international competition, not so easy given the state of soccer data). Also, more complex models may be less transparent and harder to explain. There’s something to be said for a simple model that you know to be flawed, so long as you can point out when and where those flaws are likely to occur.With that said, we’ve been reasonably pleased with SPI’s results in 2010 and since, and it’s less complex in principle than in practice. The principles behind it are as follows:It’s predictive, rather than retrospective. It’s not trying to reward teams for good play — it’s trying to guess who would win in a match played tomorrow.It weights matches on a varying scale of importance based on the composition of lineups. Sometimes even friendly matches are taken quite seriously, such as if a team is playing against a historic rival, or if it badly needs a tune-up before an upcoming tournament. Sometimes even tournament matches are blown off if a team has already clinched its position. Where there is sufficient data to do so, SPI evaluates whether a team has its best lineup in the game by comparing it against the lineups used in the most important matches. We’d know that Brazil wasn’t taking its 2002 friendly against Paraguay all that seriously, for instance, because it pulled all the players who helped it win the World Cup just months earlier.It assigns both offensive and defensive ratings to teams (as some basketball-rating systems like Ken Pomeroy’s do). The offensive and defensive ratings are meant to reflect how many goals a team would score and allow if it played an average international team.5With more than 200 national sides, an average international team is pretty bad — think of a team like Canada that isn’t atrocious but that would rarely qualify for the World Cup. A lower defensive rating is therefore better, while a high offensive rating is good. Soccer is a fluid sport, so offense and defense aren’t easy to separate. Nevertheless, there are some useful reasons to handle things in this way. In particular, we’ve found that SPI defensive ratings have a little more predictive power than offensive ratings in games against elite competition, like most of those matches that will be played in the World Cup. This may reflect the fact that high offensive ratings can result from running up the score against inferior competition. (Among the “big four” teams this year, Germany is notable for having a prolific offense but a back line that sometimes concedes soft goals.)Finally, in addition to rating national teams, SPI uses data from major international club leagues (England, Spain, Germany, Italy and, newly this year, France) and competitions (like the Champions League and the Europa League) to rate their players. This works by assigning a plus-minus rating to each player on the pitch for a given match (see here for much more detail). The plus-minus system isn’t that advanced because the data isn’t either — we basically have to make a lot of inferences from goals, bookings and starting lineups and substitutions. Still, merely knowing that a player is in the starting lineup for FC Barcelona or Chelsea tells you a fair amount about him.Technically speaking, SPI is two rating systems rolled into one: one based solely on a national team’s play, and one that reflects a composite of player ratings for what SPI projects to be a team’s top lineup. Usually the two components are strongly correlated with one another. But there are some minor exceptions. The United States, for instance, would rank something like 15th in the world based solely on our national team’s play, but SPI has us a little lower because American players aren’t accomplishing much in Europe. The contrast would be a team like France — its national team results have been inconsistent, but it always has a lot of talent, which may or may not come together.A tiny bit more housekeeping about SPI and the interactive: First, in addition to an offensive and defensive rating, each team also has an overall SPI rating (for instance, 89.1 for Spain). This reflects what percentage of the possible points a team would accumulate6At three points for a win and one point for a draw. if it played a round-robin against every other national team.This definition is fairly obscure; the more interesting question is about a team’s chances against the others it will actually face in Brazil. These are also listed in the interactive: For instance, the United States has a 38 percent chance of beating Ghana and a 29 percent chance of drawing with it. We’ll be updating the numbers at the conclusion of each match.7These updates will immediately reflect the direct effects of a team’s performance. For instance, if the United States wins against Ghana, its chances of advancing from Group H will be considerably improved. There’s also a secondary or indirect effect — the fact that the U.S. beats Ghana will slightly increase its SPI score, which could further improve its chances in future matches. We’ll be running new simulations at the end of each match but new SPI figures only once per day (they are more computationally intensive than the simulations themselves), generally in the late evening. Thus, you may see a change in a team’s odds from the evening to the next morning even though no new games have been played.Finally, keep in mind that one team’s performance potentially affects the SPI for every other team. If Ghana beats the U.S., for example, that will slightly improve SPI’s estimates of how strong Africa is compared to other continents, and could thereby also improve the odds for teams like Nigeria and Ivory Coast.There’s a lot more detail available on SPI here and here. The main improvement in the model since 2010 is that Alok Pattani and his colleagues at ESPN Stats & Info have put a lot more work into using SPI to predict the results of individual matches, and particularly the distribution of possible final scores. These match projections are calibrated based on the historical results that most resemble the World Cup, i.e. competitive (non-friendly) matches between the top 100 SPI teams. They use something called a diagonal inflated bivariate Poisson regression to estimate the distribution of possible outcomes. The fancy math is necessary because goals scored and goals allowed are used as tiebreakers in qualifying out of World Cup groups, so knowing the chance of a 1-0 win compared to a 2-1 win or a 2-0 win is sometimes important.Travel distance and South America vs. EuropeWe also put a lot of research into evaluating whether travel distance matters (above and beyond home-field advantage). Is it important, for instance, that Uruguay is traveling much less far to Brazil than Russia or Japan is?Our findings were a bit ambiguous. We found, first of all, that east-west distance traveled matters much more than north-south distance. In other words, any geographic advantage may reflect the avoidance of jet lag rather than the mere fact of being close to home. However, we also found that while the travel effect was reasonably significant when evaluated based on all World Cup matches dating back to 1952, it’s been much less significant in competitive matches taken from the era for which SPI has highly detailed data (from late 2006 onward).This may be for the reasons I described above — international travel has probably improved, and the notion of a home country is a little different in a period when most of the best players for Brazil or Argentina now play in Europe anyway. We had a lot of debate about whether to include a “strong” adjustment for east-west distance traveled (one calibrated based on data from 1952 onward), a “weak” adjustment (one based on the much weaker signal from 2006 onward) or not to include it at all, and wound up going with the weak adjustment. The weak adjustment makes little difference — it might reduce the advancement odds for a team like Japan by a couple of percentage points, for instance, but not more than that.You’ll notice that SPI is nevertheless favorably disposed toward the South American teams. It’s not just Brazil — SPI is also slightly higher on teams like Chile, Uruguay and Colombia than other systems are. (The same was true in 2010, when Uruguay and Chile were good bets against the prevailing odds, according to the system.)The South American teams to qualify for this year’s World Cup have compiled 16 wins, 11 losses and 14 draws against European qualifiers in games played since the completion of the last World Cup. All those matches except those in the Confederations Cup were friendlies, so they may not be that informative. Nevertheless, SPI is placing a big bet on the notion that the level of competition between national teams in South America is at least the equal of and perhaps slightly superior to the level of competition between national teams in Europe. Historically at least, the odds have been somewhat in South America’s favor when games are played in this hemisphere. In World Cups in the Americas since 1950, South American teams have 39 wins, 21 losses and 15 draws in games played against teams from Europe.8This particular statistic treats games decided by penalty shootouts as wins or losses rather than draws — I know I’ve been inconsistent about this, as I’ve been drawing data from different sources. Indeed, no European team has ever won a World Cup played in the Americas.A whirlwind tour of the eight groupsOn the off chance that your eyes didn’t glaze over after “diagonal inflated bivariate Poisson regression,” here’s how SPI sees the groups — and the United States’ chance of advancing.Group A: Brazil, Cameroon, Croatia, MexicoThere’s little doubt that Brazil is the class of the group — SPI gives the team a 99.3 percent chance of advancing to the knockout stage — and that Cameroon is the weakest link. Just how weak is an open question given Cameroon’s lack of competitive matches against top-flight teams and a threatened boycott over how much its athletes will be paid. But most likely the second knockout slot will go to Mexico or Croatia.SPI is not fond of either team. It sees Croatia as having the slightly better player talent but Mexico as playing a little better as a unit — despite its struggle to qualify for the World Cup at all. It’s worth mentioning that Mexico’s international record is not so bad outside of this cycle’s World Cup qualification — it dominated the 2011 Gold Cup, for instance.Part of this is about how much to weigh a longer history of results against more recent ones. The SPI view is that a team’s form can vary a lot from competition to competition but not necessarily in a predictable way, and that you should generally err on the side of the team with the better long-term history. Either way, Brazil (and SPI) would really have to blow it to not pass through the group stage with relative ease.Group B: Australia, Chile, Netherlands, SpainThis group — not the one the United States is in — is the “Group of Death,” with three teams ranked in the SPI top 10. That’s unfortunate for Australia, which is the odd team out and has less chance than any other squad of advancing to the knockout stage, according to SPI.Instead the questions are, first, whether the Netherlands or Chile is superior, and second, whether both might be strong enough to deny Spain a place in the knockout stage.SPI’s answer to the first question is Chile — but both teams are hard to rate. Chile has been prone to playing well against weaker competition but not so well against the world’s elite; that could be a sample-size fluke or it could be something real. The Netherlands, meanwhile, played quite miserably in Euro 2012 after advancing to the World Cup final in 2010. That could also be a fluke, but the team is aging, as Robin Van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben each recently celebrated their 30th birthdays.Put it like that, and Spain seems safe. But SPI estimates there’s a 20 percent chance that both the Netherlands and Chile play up to the higher end of the range, or they get a lucky bounce, or Australia pulls off a miracle, and Spain fails to advance despite wholly deserving to.Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, JapanThis is one of the weaker groups and sets up nicely for Colombia, which has plenty to recommend it despite playing in its first World Cup since 1998. In contrast to Chile, Colombia has held up reasonably well against the world’s elite: a draw against the Netherlands in the Netherlands and against Argentina in Argentina; a win against Belgium in Belgium. The team also has some questionable results, however, like draws in friendlies against Senegal and Tunisia.But who can challenge Colombia? Greece is just the sort of team that SPI usually isn’t keen on: a mid-tier European squad that lacks elite talent. However, the alternatives are Japan and Ivory Coast, and this does not look like a promising year for teams outside of Europe and South America, who collectively have just a 2.2 percent chance of winning the World Cup. Japan also has as far to travel as any team in the field and is indeed nearly antipodal to Brazil. The better bet is probably Ivory Coast, which is well ahead of both Japan and Greece in the player-ranking component of SPI, but whose captain, Didier Drogba, is now 36 years old. It’s a flawed group of opponents, although Colombia has sometimes lost or drawn against flawed opponents.Group D: Costa Rica, England, Italy, UruguayBetting markets see England, Italy and Uruguay as about equally likely to advance while Costa Rica is in a distant fourth place. SPI, by contrast, has England and Uruguay ahead of Italy and views the group as middling enough that Costa Rica could pull off a huge upset.Both England and Italy rank more highly according to the player-rating component of SPI than based on their play as national teams. This is a common state of affairs for England but less so for Italy, which rarely has among the best offenses in the world but which has normally played more consistent defense. Instead, Italy conceded 10 goals in five matches in the Confederations Cup last year.It also might not matter much in the end. England, Italy and Uruguay are the sort of teams that might be able to entertain championship dreams in a World Cup with more parity, but not in one where they would have to overcome Brazil, Argentina, Germany or Spain at some point.Group E: Ecuador, France, Honduras, SwitzerlandSPI is bearish on most European teams as compared to the consensus. France is one of the closer things to an exception: SPI has it as the seventh-best team in the world, whereas it ranks 12th in the Elo ratings and 17th according to FIFA. (As a side note, the Elo ratings are perfectly reasonable whereas the FIFA ratings are not. FIFA ranked Brazil as just the 22nd-best team in the world a year ago — it has since climbed to third — a proposition about as ridiculous as hoping to host a World Cup in Qatar.) The reason is the player-rating side of SPI. France has arguably as much player talent as any team but Brazil, Germany, Spain or Argentina — but its national team results have been inconsistent for a long while.But France is drawn into a reasonably good group. Switzerland, for some reason, ranks sixth in the world in the FIFA rankings but Elo has it 16th and we have it 21st. Ecuador, which has some credible results against European teams (a draw last month in the Netherlands; a win last year against Portugal) might be the tougher out.Group F: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, NigeriaIt would be a major upset if Argentina failed to advance to the knockout stage — SPI gives the team a 93 percent chance of doing so, the second-highest total in the field after Brazil. SPI also has Argentina as the second-best team in the world, so that’s no huge surprise, but it has an easier draw than Germany or Spain.Still, Bosnia-Herzegovina, playing in its first World Cup under that flag, is the 13th-best team in the world according to SPI. It’s also one of the most offense-minded teams in the field and not one that will allow opponents to play it safe. For that reason, the first match of the group — between Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina on Sunday — could dictate how the rest of the group plays out. Even a loss, however, probably wouldn’t prevent Argentina and Lionel Messi from advancing.Group G: Germany, Ghana, Portugal, United States American coach Jurgen Klinsmann is the anti-Joe Namath: He made news by predicting that the United States wouldn’t win the World Cup, and suggested that the team’s goal instead was to advance to the knockout stage.Statistically speaking, Klinsmann’s assessment is prudent. The U.S., according to SPI, has a 36 percent chance of advancing through Group G, but only a 0.4 percent probability (about 1 chance in 250) of coming home with the World Cup trophy.Every now and then teams defy the odds. The Villanova Wildcats had perhaps only a 1-in-800 chance of winning the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 1985 based on their play up to that point, and they won. Still, in such a top-heavy World Cup — one where teams like England and Italy are stretching to entertain championship dreams — this probably isn’t the tournament for Cinderella stories.And yet, there may be ever so slightly more pessimism than there ought to be about Klinsmann’s lesser goal of leading the U.S. to the knockout stage. The 36 percent chance SPI gives the United States isn’t great — and it’s fallen some since the World Cup draw was announced in December. But it’s a little higher than the prevailing betting odds, which put the Americans’ chances at about 26 percent.It’s not that SPI takes an especially optimistic view of the U.S. team. The player-rating component of the system hurts it, as I mentioned. While Klinsmann has somewhat deliberately tried to steer the roster toward players who are seeking to gain experience in Europe — and not in MLS — there’s a big difference between playing for Stoke City or Sunderland versus Arsenal or Man U.However, there may be a bit of irrational fear around Ghana. The African teams did little to distinguish themselves in the 2010 World Cup despite a wonderful opportunity in South Africa. They’re hard to peg because they don’t play competitive matches against the rest of the world all that often, but SPI does not have them on the rise this year.Portugal? SPI is more down on the Team of Five than it seems it should be. In SPI’s defense, Portugal was a little underwhelming in World Cup qualifying, drawing twice with Israel and once with Northern Ireland. And the team isn’t deep: While Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best two or three footballers in the world, Portugal has no other player who clearly belongs in the top 100.Germany? Well, they’re really good. But as an offense-minded squad, the team might be ever so slightly more prone toward letting in a soft goal and drawing (although probably not losing) a game that it shouldn’t. Keep hope alive, America. Group H: Algeria, Belgium, Russia, South KoreaThis is the weakest group in the field by some margin just about any way you slice and dice it. According to SPI, it has both the worst best team (Belgium is dangerous but ranks 11th in the world — every other group has at least one team in the top 10) and the worst worst team (Algeria ranks 65th in the world per SPI, the worst in the 32-team field).The group does provide an opportunity for Belgium to gain a little momentum. It will be important for the Red Devils to win the group outright because the second-place entrant from Group H will face the winner of Group G in the Round of 16 — probably Germany.The biggest threat to Belgium is from Russia. Russia is hard to peg because it doesn’t play highly competitive international matches all that often as a national team, and because the entire roster is drawn from players whose club play is in Russia itself — not one of the leagues that SPI tracks. From what we can tell, however, Russia is a fairly defense-minded team — possibly a prudent approach in a weak group where a draw against Belgium and a 1-0 win against either Algeria or South Korea would do the trick. It’s also a team that, like the U.S., might take some pride in advancing. Russia will host the World Cup in 2018 but has never made it past the group stage.9The Soviet Union didn’t have much World Cup success either, but did finish in fourth place in 1966 and made the quarterfinals on other occasions.
FiveThirtyEight’s current NBA predictions give the Brooklyn Nets an 81 percent chance of making the playoffs. That’s way better than the odds before the season began, when our predictions gave Brooklyn only a 34 percent chance of making it past the regular season. In the video above, Chris Herring takes a look at how the Nets got here and the challenges the team faces in maintaining this new success.
OSU then-redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) runs with the ball during a game against Rutgers on Oct. 18, 2014 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Lantern File PhotoAs No. 1 Ohio State (7-0, 3-0) looks for its 21st straight victory, it will be doing so with a new, yet familiar, face under center.Redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett, who started 12 games in 2014 and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting, unseated redshirt junior Cardale Jones as the starting quarterback before the Buckeyes’ Week 8 matchup at Rutgers, OSU coach Urban Meyer announced on Tuesday.“J.T has earned the right to start Saturday at Rutgers,” Meyer said during the weekly Big Ten coaches teleconference.Jones has started each of the Buckeyes’ seven games this season but was benched in the second half in favor of Barrett against Penn State after a 9-of-15, 84-yard performance. Barrett, used throughout the game in the red zone as well as the extended run in the second half, was 4-of-4 for 30 yards and two touchdowns while running 11 times for 102 yards and two additional scores.Regardless of who is calling the plays for the offense, senior left tackle Taylor Decker said he thinks the unit is hitting its stride.“I think we’re farther along than we were at this time last year,” Decker said. “There’s always going to be a ton of questions and everything … but I think we’re farther along.”Decker went on to say that the offense was being held back by two areas of weakness, which it went on the attack to eliminate.“We’re improving. We’re a capable offense,” Decker said. “I think we have been, honestly, playing well. I think the issues were turning the ball over and penalties.”With seven wins in the books, OSU now turns its attention to Rutgers (3-3, 1-2).The Scarlet Knights grabbed their first conference win last week at Indiana in a 55-52 shootout. Rutgers trailed 52-27 late in the third quarter of that game, but came all the way back to win on a 26-yard field goal as time expired.While Rutgers carries one of the country’s worst defenses with 447.3 yards allowed per game, OSU sophomore guard Billy Price said the Buckeyes must respect any foe, especially one in the Big Ten.“You can’t go into any games taking them lightly, because it’s college football and any team will creep up on you, so we have the utmost respect for them,” Price said.Price said the size Rutgers has on the defensive line stands out to him when he looks at tape and thinks back to last season’s meeting, a 56-17 OSU romp in Columbus.The Buckeyes will look to go into High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey, to do the same on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.Rushing leaderboardAgainst Penn State, junior running back Ezekiel Elliott eclipsed the 3,000-yard rushing mark with his 153 yards.Now, several former Buckeyes sit in front of him to be passed on the all-time OSU rankings.If Elliott hits his season average of 141 rushing yards on Saturday, he could move from eighth to fifth on the list. The St. Louis native would pass former OSU running backs Carlos Hyde and Keith Byers to move into sixth place, but moving into fifth could pose a challenge.Redshirt senior Braxton Miller currently stands 118 yards in front of Elliott with 3,246. While it seems clear that Elliott will soon pass the former quarterback, a strong game from Miller could keep him in fifth for at least one more week.Beanie Wells would be the next in line after Miller for Elliott to pass, as he sits in fourth place, 254 yards in front of Elliott. Archie Griffin is the all-time leader with 5,589 yards, a mark that would be difficult for Elliott to eclipse even if he chooses to forgo the NFL draft for his senior year.Injury reportThough he left the Penn State game in the first possession with an ankle sprain and did not return, Meyer described senior linebacker Joshua Perry as “probable” for Saturday.Another senior defensive starter will not have the same fortune, however, as defensive lineman Tommy Schutt had wrist surgery after the game. Meyer said Schutt “should be back in a couple of weeks,” but will miss the game against Rutgers. Listed in his place on OSU’s depth chart are redshirt senior Joel Hale and redshirt sophomore Michael Hill.While healthy, the Buckeyes will also be without senior linebacker Cam Williams for the first half of the game due to a second-half targeting call that had him ejected from the game against Penn State. Junior Joe Burger entered the depth chart in Williams’ absence.For the Scarlet Knights, senior wide receiver Leonte Carroo, the school’s all-time leader in touchdown receptions, is considered questionable with a right ankle injury. Carroo said he’ll “definitely be playing” after Rutgers’ win over Indiana, but he did not practice on Tuesday. Up nextThe Buckeyes will have their first bye week of the season upon returning from Piscataway. Their next game is scheduled to be an 8 p.m. affair at Ohio Stadium against Minnesota on Nov. 7.
Ohio State has a hard time losing when center Jantel Lavender records a double-double. Lavender’s 22-point, 22-rebound game against Indiana on Wednesday was her eighth of the season and 65th of her career — good for more than any other active Big Ten player. The Buckeyes are 8-0 this season and 54-11 over her four-year tenure when she registers double-digit points and rebounds in a game. The 22 rebounds were a career-high for the 6-foot-4 center. “I take a lot of pride in (rebounding). I know that when we rebound, when we get fast breaks and we can push the ball because I throw good outlet passes and (point guard) Sammy (Prahalis) is a great outlet player,” Lavender said. “I know if I get her the ball, we can get fast break layups and we like to play fast. It’s fun.” Lavender was named preseason Big Ten Player of the Year and came into Wednesday night second in the country in scoring at a clip of 24.7 points per game. Her 11.3 rebounds per game lead the Big Ten. The Cleveland native has scored double-digit points in every game she has played going back to middle school. Lavender’s current collegiate streak of 116 games of scoring in double-figures is only nine games shy of Mississippi State’s LaToya Thomas’ NCAA record of 125 consecutive games. “I just know that my teammates need me to rebound. I know that if I’m rebounding well then we’re flowing a little bit better,” Lavender said. “I know if I can get those offensive rebounds and defensive rebounds we can run into our offense a lot quicker.” Suffocating defense Only once has coach Jim Foster’s man-to-man defense allowed an opponent to shoot 50 percent from the field this season. It was against Geno Auriemma’s UConn Huskies, who tied the NCAA record for most consecutive wins Dec. 19. “Our energy on defense is terrific and it’s a good thing for us. It just gives us different looks that we can throw at another team’s point guard,” Foster said. “We can throw five or six different people of various lengths and quickness” at them. Indiana shot 36.5 percent on field goals Wednesday, largely because of Foster’s pressure scheme that focused on switches and close-outs on shooters. Lavender’s length on the interior prevented the Hoosiers from getting many good looks in the lane. Sophomore guard Amber Stokes provided 15 valuable minutes off the bench, scoring a career-high 10 points and providing the Buckeyes with energy with her on-ball defending on the perimeter. “I love playing defense,” Stokes said. “When coach puts me in the game, I’m going to pressure the ball.”
Tim Adams is in the midst of his 16th season as the full-time equipment manager for the OSU men’s hockey team, and 18th with the program overall.Credit: Courtesy of OSU athleticsTim Adams has never ventured into what he calls the “real world.” In his 18th season with the Ohio State men’s hockey team, the equipment manager has never seen the necessity.The man with a degree in natural resources has made his career within the confines of ice rinks, handling hockey equipment for the Buckeyes.Adams’ career path began at the OSU Ice Rink where he was a student employee under longtime manager Duke Johnson. Shortly after graduation, Adams received an offer he wasn’t expecting: become OSU’s equipment manager for the second half of the 1997-98 season.“I thought, ‘Hey, this will be a fun thing to do for a few years, then I’ll get out in the real world and get a real job,” Adams said. “Eighteen years later, here I am.”The job presented itself when the Buckeyes’ former equipment manager left the team mid-season to dress for the now-defunct Columbus Chill, OSU’s then-coach John Markell said.On New Year’s Eve of 1997, Markell, shorthanded, asked Johnson to serve as temporary equipment manager during a road series against Michigan. Shortly after, Markell requested an equipment manager for the rest of the season. Johnson recommended Adams for the position.“He was here the longest, had the most experience and he liked hockey,” Johnson said of Adams. “He probably had as much hockey experience as any of the kids working here.”Adams learned basic skate sharpening and skate repair skills during his time at the OSU Ice Rink, but had to familiarize himself with some of the job’s non-technical requirements such as operating a budget and ordering custom equipment, he said.The learning curve brought valuable lessons. After packing heavy for the first couple road trips, Adams gradually realized what he needed to take with the team and what he could leave in Columbus, he said. Fellow equipment managers from opposing teams guided his development, Adams said. “The equipment guys are kind of a fraternity in their own right,” Adams said. “We aren’t winning or losing the games for our teams.”For the Buckeyes, winning wasn’t a problem once Adams joined the team. After going 9-10-1 through New Year’s weekend, the Buckeyes went 18-3-1 for the remainder of the regular season.The second-half surge was enough to boost OSU in its only Frozen Four appearance in school history. After the season, Markell switched the equipment manager’s position from part-time to full-time, he said. Adams was offered to continue with the team. “There was no thought of ever having (Adams) replaced and I was very happy that he wanted to take it on full-time,” Markell said. “I think he was excited about the direction of the program.”Markell, who was replaced in 2010 and now coaches two Ohio AAA Blue Jackets girls hockey teams, said Adams’ success was a result of his organization and passion for the game.OSU coach Steve Rohlik, who replaced former Buckeye coach Mark Osiecki in 2013, is the third coach with whom Adams has worked. He echoed Markell’s thoughts. “He’ll die for this program, he’s passionate for this program, he’ll do what it takes,” Rohlik said. “That’s just the person he is.”Despite the turnover of coaches, Adams maintains his daily structure. During the week, Adams is at the rink by 8 a.m. and out at about 4:30 p.m. His shift is extended on gamedays. He pulls double-duty for home games, as he’s responsible for handling the visiting team’s laundry as well as OSU’s. The process can delay his departure until 12:30 a.m. on Fridays and 10:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Adams made $60,524 in 2013 — $14,180 was overtime pay.The players he accommodates are appreciative of his work. “He’s always been great,” senior forward Matt Johnson said. “Whenever you need something, he’s always got it for you.”As the longest-tenured member of the Buckeyes , Adams has done his best to meet the needs of the players, a task sometimes complicated by unusual requests.“It’s always to do with skates,” Adams said. “When you get that weird stuff to do with players, it’s always to do with skates.” Adams meets the needs of his team without making personal judgments, he said. In-game requests to change a skate’s cut are met with nods, not inquiries. An hour after a midweek practice, it was a request for new shorts that took Adams’ attention. Prior to the request, Adams’ phone had buzzed three times. For a man who works outside the “real world,” his job seems quite demanding.
Ohio State women’s soccer head coach Lori Walker-Hock paces the sidelines in the second of the game against Florida Gulf Coast University on Sept. 7. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo EditorAfter tying Rutgers 0-0 on Friday, the Ohio State women’s soccer team (7-5-3, 4-2-3 Big Ten) drew a 1-1 tie with Maryland (4-8-5, 2-5-2 Big Ten) on Sunday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Maryland freshman forward Emily McNesby scored the first goal of the game in the 29th minute from six yards, marking her first career goal for the Terrapins, which was assisted by senior forward Jarena Harmon. Despite retaining possession for much of the first half, the Buckeyes remained scoreless at halftime, with Maryland holding a 1-0 lead. Coming out of halftime, sophomore defender Izzy Rodriguez scored a goal for the Buckeyes in the 49th minute to tie up the game, hitting a 20-yard shot off the left post, ending regulation in a 1-1 tie. Ohio State senior goalkeeper Devon Kerr recorded three saves in Sunday’s game against the Terrapins, as the Terrapins recorded four shots on goal along with 18 total shots. Ohio State freshman defender/midfielder Talani Barnett said she thinks the team’s performance went really well today against Maryland. “We fought hard throughout the whole game,” Barnett said. “And we were strong. The outcome didn’t end up the way we wanted it to, but we still played really hard.”At the end of the game, Ohio State held an 8-2 advantage over Maryland in corner kicks, meanwhile, the Terrapins held a 7-3 edge in saves over the Buckeyes. Ohio State will resume action on the road when it plays Purdue on Thursday at 6 p.m.
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are to divorce after 12 years together and two years of marriage. Jolie has filed legal papers citing “irreconcilable differences”, applying for physical custody of their six children. A legal representative for the actress confirmed she filed papers to dissolve the marriage, claiming she had done so for the “health of the family”. “She will not be commenting, and asks that the family be given its privacy at this time,” attorney Robert Offer added in a statement. Last night, reports alleged a variety of motives for the divorce, from Pitt’s “bad parenting” to his “substance abuse”. One report claimed the actor had been having an affair with French actress Marion Cotillard, who he worked with on his latest movie, Allied. All the claims have been denied. She added: “To be clear: we have fights and problems like any other couple. We have days when we drive each other absolutely mad and want space.”Jolie and Pitt have been one of the most scrutinised celebrity couples of recent years, since rumours the actor left his wife Jennifer Aniston during the filming of Mr and Mrs Smith.The couple married in private at their chateau in France in 2014.They had waited for gay marriage to become legal, with Pitt telling Esquire magazine in 2006: “Angie and I will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able to.”Jolie’s Atelier Versace gown featured dozens of designs from her children’s drawings sewn into the dress and veil and the children served as ring bearers and threw flower petals.Since Mr And Mrs Smith, the couple have appeared on screen together in By the Sea, a film written and directed by Jolie and produced by Pitt, in which they played a glamorous couple whose marriage is in crisis. Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and children Credit:Rex Features The couple in the limelight in 2007 Actor Jon Voight, Jolie’s estranged father, told Inside Edition: “It’s a sad thing. Say a little prayer. I am concerned for Angie and the children and hopefully I will be seeing them very soon.”George Clooney, who is a friend of the couple, said he was “very sorry” to hear of the split.The Hollywood star had apparently not heard the news when he was asked about it at Tuesday’s Leaders Summit for Refugees at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.”What happened?” Clooney asked, before being informed by the reporter: “I didn’t know that. Wow. I feel very sorry then.” Before they began filming, Jolie told the Radio Times: “It feels a little daunting. We haven’t worked together for 10 years. But all of the reasons why people say we should be scared of it, we feel that’s exactly why we have to do this – because we can. So we’re going to go boldly.”She added of Pitt: “He’s a pretty strong actor. It’s going to be interesting. He’s a really great artist, such an interesting artist, and of course he’s the man I love, so I think we’re going to have a great time.” He added: “That’s a sad story and unfortunate for a family. It’s an unfortunate story about a family. I feel very sorry to hear that.” Papers show Jolie has requested physical custody of the children while Pitt is granted “child visitation”. The date of separation is given as September 15, 2016. Jolie is being represented by divorce lawyer Laura Wasser, who has earned her “Disso Queen” nickname handling marriage dissolutions on behalf of some of Hollywood’s biggest names. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. In a statement to People magazine, Pitt said he was “saddened” by the decision. “I am very saddened by this, but what matters most now is the well-being of our kids,” he said. “I kindly ask the press to give them the space they deserve during this challenging time.”The couple have been together since 2005. They married in 2014 and have six children: Maddox, Pax, Zahara, Shiloh, and twins Knox and Vivienne.They are together worth an estimated £308 million and are said to own a number of properties around the world including the sprawling Chateau Miraval in the south of France, an estate in Hollywood and a home in Santa Barbara worth an estimated $5 million (£3.8 million). In May 2013 Jolie had a preventative double mastectomy after tests showed that she carries the BRCA1 cancer gene, and she later told US TV show Today: “I knew through the surgeries that he [Pitt] was on my side and that this wasn’t something where I was going to feel less of a woman, because my husband wasn’t going to let that happen.”To face these issues together and speak about them and talk about what it is to be human, I think can be a beautiful thing.”Earlier this month, Jolie was photographed working alone as UNHCR special envoy in a Syrian refugee camp in Azraq in northern Jordan.The couple were photographed together back in July, celebrating her son’s birthday in a West Hollywood restaurant. “I’ll tell my clients, ‘I have someone else, I can’t say who, but you should really wait and file at the same time’,” she said.She reportedly charges $850 an hour, requires a $25,000 retainer, and rarely represents people who have less than $10 million.This will be the second divorce for Pitt and third for Jolie, who was previously married to Billy Bob Thornton and British actor Jonny Lee Miller.Just last year, Jolie told The Telegraph the couple would “stick together whatever comes” but admitted: “Brad and I have our issues”. Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt in AlliedCredit: Paramount Pictures/AP Jolie and Pitt on the set of Mr and Mrs SmithCredit:Rex Among those she has represented is Johnny Depp, who ended acrimonious divorce proceedings with actress Amber Heard with a $7 million settlement last month.Miss Wasser, a partner at Los Angeles family law firm, Wasser, Cooperman & Mandles, also represented Kim Kardashian, Stevie Wonder, Heidi Klum, Ryan Reynolds, Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey and Kiefer Sutherland in their marital splits, and helped Britney Spears to win joint custody of her children despite the singer’s public meltdown.She represents so many celebrities she told Bloomberg she sometimes advises clients to keep their divorce on hold so she can file several high-profile cases at once to spread the media attention, which is why there can be a flurry of break-ups summarised in magazines. The document filed in an LA court
Sir Craig also describes Boris Johnson’s “flip-flopping” over the weekend in which he finally came out and put himself at the head of the Leave campaign.He said that the day before the announcement, the former London mayor sent a text to Mr Cameron warning him that he would be campaigning for Leave, only to send a second message suggesting he could back Remain. The following day Mr Cameron apparently received a final text from Mr Johnson saying he would be backing Leave, just nine minutes before he publicly announced his intentions in a chaotic press conference. A new knight of the realm should remember what knights were famous for in the past – chivalry, decency and humility and bravery. Not one of these is now applicable in any shape or formIain Duncan Smith Theresa May hit back last night at claims that David Cameron believed she was “lily-livered” on migration, by revealing that she wrote to him twice in the run up to the EU referendum calling for stronger border controls.Responding to the claims contained in the book All Out War, by Tim Shipman, political editor of The Sunday Times, sources yesterday took the extraordinary step of revealing that in November 2014 and May last year, Mrs May, the then home secretary, wrote to Mr Cameron urging him to put stronger restrictions on free movement at the heart of any EU deal. It came after it was alleged that Mrs May told him to drop plans for an “emergency brake” on EU migrants because it would be opposed by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor.Downing Street responded by saying that on November 21 2014, she called for a “return to the original principle of freedom of movement” where EU citizens should only be able to come to work in the UK if they have a firm job offer.In the second intervention, on May 21 2015, they claimed she highlighted the importance of securing “real reform” of free movement, specifically arguing that an emergency brake would be “crucial” in helping Britain to cut the number of EU migrants.In the end Mr Cameron did a deal with Brussels to cut the benefits paid to new arrivals, which was rejected by voters during the EU referendum.Mrs May’s allies yesterday also accused Mr Cameron’s former senior aide of trying to “undermine the new Government” after claiming that she was an “enemy agent” for Brexit. Sir Craig Oliver, former director of communications for David Cameron, arrives in Downing StreetCredit:Carl Court/Getty Sir Craig Oliver, who was Mr Cameron’s director of communications, said in his own book that Mrs May refused to assist the then prime minister’s campaign to keep Britain in the EU.Mrs May eventually backed Mr Cameron’s Remain side, but made only one notable intervention during the almost six-month campaign.This led to Downing Street nicknaming her “submarine May” because of her habit of disappearing when Mr Cameron asked for help, it is alleged.Iain Duncan Smith, the former work and pensions secretary, accused Sir Craig of trying to “rewrite history” and said he should “get behind Theresa May, instead of carping”.He said: “Theresa May was nicknamed ‘submarine May’, according to Sir Craig Oliver. A dose of humility would not go amiss. A new knight of the realm should remember what knights were famous for in the past – chivalry, decency and humility and bravery. Not one of these is now applicable in any shape or form.”The present Prime Minister needs our support. The referendum vote has been and gone. You cannot rewrite history. They should learn that.”Sir Patrick McLoughlin, the Conservative Party chairman, also denied the claims. He said: “This is a book that has been written after the event. You have got to have certain spicy things in a book to sell it. I don’t blame Craig for doing that. At the time, Theresa was very much part of the Remain campaign.”Another ally of Mrs May suggested that the comments had been intended to “destabilise” the new Government.Sir Craig said: “Iain appears to have got the wrong end of the stick. I have not made the specific allegations he claims. The book is a sincere and honest attempt to explain what went wrong, and I take full responsibility for the mistakes made by the campaign.”Sir Craig said that Mrs May failed to support Mr Cameron on 13 separate occasions before she did reluctantly “come off the fence” for Remain, but only after her then leader gave her a dressing down via telephone. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.